Appendix: People’s Microphone
This was originally a letter later excerpted in a pamphlet available, somehow, here, a not casual enough contribution to an international conversation among, largely, poets generally freighted with the anxiety that the various occupations will not produce a transformational political program. That anxiety. The pivot was something Žižek said in the papers:
[...] I agree with much of what Zizek said in his address at Zuccotti Park, which included a dose of this realism. And though I’m sticking words in their mouths, I’m with David Harvey too, I think, to name various others, in believing the People’s Paranoia—to coin a phrase—of (political) representation the biggest threat to the success of the revolutionary moment. This paranoia is doubtless the handicraft of liberalism, and I include among its line ploys of philosophical sophistication, theoretical adroitness, polysemousness, and all sorts of gibberatics, widespread today, which produce the hotheaded likeness of something thought deviously outside the worst record of an author entitled to some reader. They who are the authors entitled to the labor of readers! Oh we can be so blocked.
We must now basically engage in statecraft. But the statecraft demanded today is not, principally, a form of authorship. Can I say that? Much has been made (in the name of statecraft) of the People’s Mic—registering its univocal aspect, the perforce identity of author and public. Such discussion articulates fealty to sacrosanct ideals of participatory democracy and consensus; and some have bristled anxiously at its attendant fascist auratic. These plaudits and tantrums, I think, are hands on the same dial; and each mistakes the schedule of pleasure determined by the People’s Mic, which inaugurates a community not of authorship but of readership. This is, at least, how I wish to read this microphone as paradigm.
Parceling oratory into stet bundles, arousing enjambed speech—the new technology suspends authorial stasis and elicits the historical precession of hallucinatory closures experienced by any reader absorbed in any text. Its medium is punctuation, and its habitat is the sound track. It has something of the animate backspin of Gunslinger’s draw. It loves the comic, flip, casual, digestive, absorptive, passionate, arch, sentimental, and tender. It wants to give body to speakerly affect, to the exogenous stupid that afflicts a readers’ lips. It announces the commons as an erotic potentiality necessarily external to the strict economy of author and reader, producer and consumer, but decidedly, I think, on the side of the reader. This commons will never be written, and you can only take pleasure in the pleasure of its readers.
At the assembly, I enforce the new technology—ruthlessly, even. Is it the Law? An orthodoxy? I don’t think so, exactly. But when I shout verbatim across the delinquent speaker, I listen with their own words for the fine caesura, and motivate my own aggression to the cited oblivion of the coming text. How else will we survive the sheer chronicity of such a fine-grained political process? I enforce it with my life, which has become a funny, smiley, annoyed thing that I do with my body. And when I leave the assembly, or the next day feel the unwelcome responsibility, verging itself on obligation, to return impossibly again, and enforce my own words, I remember that there will be others there today—readers!—blogging the acts and coughing up their mannered own, in the stunning viscosity of political organization. And this is something, I believe, to the credit of the division of labor that will necessarily attend any post-capitalist reorganization. It is readers who give attitude to the enforced labor of others. Can an author know anything but austerity?
Successfully speaking at the GA using the People’s Mic is not a complicated subject. Basically, you make arguments for listeners, fine-grained, situated, arguments, preferably—that register the threat of conversation with their breath. When Jesse Jackson came to the Chicago GA on day, I don’t know, 7? He could barely use the People’s Mic because I think he already speaks the form more fluently than any other human. Have you ever heard such a heavily enjambed line? Look it up. “It’s morning time,” pun intended.
Tons of people are bad at it, period, because it’s difficult to tend to the rhythm of a thought as you’re having it—we learn. We learn it’s a bodied thing in which we all end up looking like rodents, or pedants, or serpents, or cheerleaders, or just something else. There’s a reason why all the best art about the occupations feels a bit mournful. The occupations are mournful. They have the capacious ‘tude of mourning, the paratactic, monotonous, rhapsodic, credenzaic ordinary flat line of the serial enumerate. This is my beef with people who wish to beat the secret out of the event. There is no secret, no knowable trauma whose DNA, once uncovered, will guide us formulaically to some consequence and conclusion. Sure, this event has inducted us into its confidence. But we will never know what happened anally. Though there is history.
What we need to develop are autonomous, creative fixtures of social care. Of orality, as I’m thinking of it suddenly. Such fixtures are a necessary corollary to any militant action directed against whatever is. I say this as someone who tries not to be afraid of sex, who tries to picture sex instead as an episodic excuse for my own undoing. But art, for one, can promote careful absorption in the social, the plastic aspect of lasting in the rhythm of mourning in the morning, of finding out what’s not only there. We must, in this sense, be able to become passive to form, as Lauren Berlant has said. What else would it look like to demilitarize economic life? If I am anxious, then, about something, it is that I want to become inefficient for something—that I wish, somehow, to have made myself obvious.